Nauru detention centre
The detention centre on the South Pacific island nation of Nauru was based on a Statement of Principles, signed on September 10, 2001 by the President of Nauru, René Harris, and Australia's then-Minister for Defence, Peter Reith. The statement opened the way to establish a detention centre for up to 800 people and was accompanied by a pledge of A$20 million for development activities. The use of immigration detention facilities is part of a policy of mandatory detention in Australia. The centre is seen by Nauruans as an important industry critical for the employment opportunities it provides.
The initial detainees were to be people rescued by the MV Tampa (see Tampa affair), with the understanding that they would leave Nauru by May 2002. Subsequently, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed on December 11, boosting refugee numbers to 1,200 and the promised development activity by an additional $10 million.
In July 2013 the detention centre was holding 545 asylum seekers. On 19 July 2013 there was a major riot in the detention centre. Several buildings were destroyed by fire. Damage was estimated at $60 million.
Hunger strikes, attempted suicide and self-harm including sewing their lips together have been reported as occurring at the facility. Medical staff have been provided by International Organization for Migration.
The conditions at the Nauru detention centre were initially described as harsh with only basic health facilities. In 2002, detainees deplored the water shortages and overcrowded conditions. There was only very limited education services for children.
An overwhelming sense of despair has been repeatedly expressed by detainees because of the uncertainty of their situation and their remoteness from loved ones. In 2013, a veteran nurse described the detention centre as 'like a concentration camp'.
Initial plans were for asylum seekers to be housed in modern, air-conditioned housing which had been built for the games of the International Weightlifting Federation. This plan was changed after landowners' requests for extra compensation were rejected.
Two camps were built. The first camp, called "Topside", was at an old sports ground and oval in the Meneng District ( ). The second camp, called "State House", was on the site of the old Presidential quarters also in the Meneng District ( ).
By July 2005, 32 people were detained in Nauru as asylum seekers: 16 Iraqis, 11 Afghans, 2 Iranians, 2 Bangladeshis, and 1 Pakistani. All but two Iraqis were released to Australia, the last group of 25 leaving on November 1, 2005. The remaining two Iraqis stayed in custody for over a year. The last one was finally accepted by an unnamed Scandinavian country after five years in detention, in January 2007. The other was in an Australian hospital at the time, and was later given permission to remain in Australia while his asylum case was being decided. In September 2006, a group of eight Burmese Rohingya men were transferred there from Christmas Island. On March 15, 2007, the Australian Government announced that 83 Sri Lankan Tamil people would be transferred from Christmas Island to the Nauru detention center. They arrived in Nauru by the end of the month.
In December 2007, newly elected Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced that his country would no longer make use of the Nauru detention center, and would put an immediate end to the "Pacific Solution". The last remaining Burmese and Sri Lankan detainees were granted residency rights in Australia. Nauru reacted with concern at the prospect of potentially losing much-needed aid from Australia.
In August 2012, Nauru detention centres were re-opened to process asylum seekers and refugees arriving by boat in Australia. The re-opening of the centres sparked criticism of Australia's Labor Government after the United Nations refused to assist the government on the mandatory measures. In November 2012, an Amnesty International team visited the camp and described it as "a human rights catastrophe ... a toxic mix of uncertainty, unlawful detention and inhumane conditions".
July 2013 riot
On 19 July 2013 a riot occurred at the detention centre and caused $60 million damage. Police and guards had rocks and sticks thrown at them. Four people were hospitalised, though their injuries were minor. Other people were treated for bruising and cuts. The riot began at 3pm when the detainees staged a protest. Up to 200 detainees escaped and about 60 were held overnight at the islands police station. Several vehicles and buildings including accommodation blocks for up to 600 people, offices, dining room, and the health centre were destroyed by fire. This is about 80 percent of the centre's buildings. 129 of 545 male detainees were identified as being involved in the rioting and were detained in the police watch house.
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